tv Journalists Discuss Press Freedom and Fake News CSPAN April 29, 2017 8:50pm-9:36pm EDT
find you get what you need ♪ down to the demonstrations to get my fair share of abuse >> and now we are live in washington, d.c. for the annual white house correspondents dinner. on the program, journalism awards to be presented i bob woodward and carl bernstein and entertainment by the daily show correspondent. while we wait for that to begin, that they are in the
clapp, i think we are good. good afternoon. biannualo the ninth walter cronkite awards for excellence in television, political journalism. i am marty kaplan. i am on the faculty of the annenberg school for communication and journalism at the university of southern california where i am the director of the norman lear center. it has been these awards since walter cronkite a bout the first ones here in washington in 2000 and one. -- in 2001. if you are with us on c-span or facebook live, welcome from the national press club in washington.
>> looking around this room i see plenty of glamour right here in the middle english meaning of glamour -- knowledge, insight. theou believe that is actual etymology of glamour, that you bear witness to the --tological looping s looping as of something called alternative facts. andy's award winners networks and stations across the country. i see a number of other distinguished guests whom i would like to record highs. you know who you are.
here is how today will go. first, before we present the trophies, i will ask the winners of the national award category to come up and grapple with questions about trust and legitimacy, about take news and real journalism, about the assault on free press in an age of all truth. then we will serve lunch. we will invite each of our winners to come up and accept their awards. joining me to present them will be my colleague at the annenberg school judy muller and my colleague at the annenberg center at the university of pennsylvania. extinct if you are as in accepting your awards as you
are on the air, we will get you out of here in time to get back to work or to travel home or to pick up your sequins and cummerbund at the dry cleaners. introduce our panel, i want to show you some clips from their winning entries in the context of walter cronkite's legacy. signoff --signature that is the way it is -- of that there-- avows is a way it is. it attests to the existence of reality. the reality of truth. the truth of evidence. but why do these values matter? what difference does excellence in television political journalism make?
>> we are not well educated enough to take our leaders. we have to improve that situation. it is going to a large degree be up to us in television and radio, in broadcasting, to get that job done. if we fail at that, our democracy is i think in serious danger. >> there is more fact checking them ever but fewer people trusting the fact. >> do you have any qualms about asking a foreign government to interfere god to hack into a system of anybody's in this country? you know it gives me more
pause? that a person in our government -- crooked hillary clinton -- be quiet, i know you want to save her. that a person in our government would delete or get rid of 33,000 emails. >> i think what we've got here is a case of overclassification. , andnot worried about it no democrat or american should be either. [applause] there was no permission to be asked. it was permitted. i did not have to ask anyone. >> is that true? was her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state absolutely permitted? no. that is not true. hillary clinton is no friend of the media. donald trump is different here
in -- is different. he sought to strip the press of legitimacy. >> i am not running against crooked hillary clinton. i am running against the crooked media. your immigration plan is -- >> sit down. i have the right. >> know you don't, you haven't been called. what a lie it was from nbc. she is back there. what a lie it was. >> the rest of the crowd was just angry. at the end of it, one of trumps people there got a secret
service guy and said he is going to walk you to your car. >> it is very rude, it is not about you. >> it is about the united states. >> so much misinformation, journalists stuck in more forceful approach than usual. >> if you're saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism? >> i don't think so at all. think of all the crime that is being committed. the crime does not match what you say. the pew research, which is internet -- which is independent -- >> you are naive. >> i'm not going to pay for that wall. he should take for. >> the idea this is a murder is a fiction, a delusion untethered
to reality. to say otherwise is ridiculous. and frankly shameful. this is not a pro-clinton or anti-trump position. it is a pro-truth position. only 14% of republicans say they trust news media this year. i want to most important talk about what we can all do in the media to get those numbers back up every day. we can either begin people's trust or lose war. >> i call them the fake news and they are. >> panelists, please join me. [applause]
and say what else they want to say. right now i would love to begin to what we have just been talking about and the life we are living. i will contrast what cronkite said about the key role in making the public able to choose ,ts leaders and then at the end the press as the enemies of the people. what happened? when the pressn is called the enemies of the people? what is the agenda? what is the consequence? are you the enemies of the people?
i would love each of you to have a chance at it. obviously we are not the enemies of the people. i think it is fairly obvious at this point that the goal is to undermine any criticism. the president and his team have waged campaign differently, but against same goal legislative oversight, against the judicial branch, but obviously most forcefully against us. the goal is so that when we provide a check, that check that is so enshrined in the first amendment, it is ineffective. we see that it is working to a degree. there was follow up this week with the abc news washington post that shows 32% of the country believes that president obama spied on donald trump and his campaign and 52% of
republicans believe that. it does not out of the paul ryan says there is no evidence of that or james comey or even have a nunez. all three of them said the tweets the president made have no basis in fact or evidence. undermining us allows him to say or do whatever he wants and pick off enough people to make ineffective the checks and balances we provide not just on wild outlandish claims that might not mean that much, but what he wants to do with this country, which i'm sure i speak for everybody, we want to cover in a there and impartial way. this other stuff keeps getting in the way of that. >> some are biased. if they do have biases, it is our job to put those aside and report fairly. if we have any bias, it is a bias towards the fact.
it is not because we are rooting for hillary clinton or donald trump. we are rooting for the democracy we live in. that foundation is a sense of shared principles and adherence to truth. donald trump is not the first president or candidate or politician to not the press. there are long-standing tensions between us. he is the first to go so unabashedly and forcefully against us, to campaign against us. he was campaigning against hillary clinton that really campaigning against us. he did not care that that was out there. he did that to be out there because as jake was saying, if we report something that is not friendly towards him, if he undercuts our red ability, if he diminishes us, he inoculates himself from that criticism. his appeal to the better demons of voters in this country.
he appeals to their base fears and their most basic frustrations and anger's and that works for him partially because they did not have a trust in the present a longer. partially because they were sick of washington and felt left behind. he said outrageous things, refused to apologize or it and he allowed people to feel like they could take control of their lives again. they can do what they want again, they can yell at the top of their lungs if they want and somebody will finally hear them. where that goes from here, well, that's a good question for the rest of this panel. >> i was glad to be reminded of that sound bite where he says i'm not fighting clinton, i'm fighting you, i'm battling you. i think we've seen that again even this week in some ways, that he won. the president wants a war with a press and as some of his aides have described him that way. of course, the ground was very fertile for this in june of 2015. it's why the first time i saw you on the campaign trail two weeks after trump announced up in new hampshire he was already picking on you in the crowd,
already calling you out by name and complaining about the press. this was when he was still having small events, before he was having rallies. the ground was fertile for it because of decades of criticism of the press, mostly from the right, sometimes from the left, but largely from the right. so the ground was so fertile for someone to come along and take it a subtext and turn it into text. to say bluntly what others were saying softly. this idea of campaign against the press, you know, we could see the groundwork for decades in the past, and -- and for a confluence of reasons, it was trump who took it to such a different level. >> but, jorge ramos, enemies of the people is not you're biased, you're liberal. it's something that cuts deeper. >> well, he was criticizing us, because we were criticizing him. i think the first responsibility that we have as journalists is to reflect reality, as it is not us we wish it would be, i
understand that, but then there's a second level. the most important responsibility we have is to challenge and to question -- we can have a president who made racist, sexist remarks. if we have a president who criticizes judges and the press. if we have a president who behaved like a bully during the campaign, then we cannot remain neutral. i think on certain occasions, we have to take a stand. it is my position when it comes ,o racism and corruption dictatorships and devaluation of human rights, we have to take a stand. many people believe he was completely right in the middle. well, he was not. during the second world war and during the civil rights movement he took a stance.
i have my quotes, i'll show them to you later, but the important thing is that if the president said things that are not -- look, if we remain neutral with trump, i think, we are normalizing his behavior. and he's not an example, not even for school children. and i think it is our responsibility to be critical of him. that's it. that's why we are journalists. that's the role of journalism, i think. >> is there a sense in which he's not just criticizing your particular criticism of him, that he's criticizing the enterprise of journalism, attempting to delegitimize -- >> i think that's a really important point. enemy to the people is so far beyond telling you to watch fox, not cnn. enemies of the people, which he's only said a couple times, but did say out loud and twitter, it's about dismissing
the existence of a press that can report fairly on his presidency. now, it may be because he hasn't said in recent weeks we shouldn't take him at that word. >> we can remind him. >> but it was used a couple of times. >> but it's only in as far as it relates to him. he will uphold journalism when it benefits him. he will retweet "washington post" articles, even though he says that "the washington post" is a bunch of liars. same with the "new york times." he doesn't hate the press. he hates fact-based coverage of him, period. >> he's doing nine interviews this week that i've counted, including three today, another one tomorrow, and on the plane with him in pennsylvania, all of this evidence we've all accumulated the evidence of his love of journalists when it's convenient, love of attention, better word. >> we'll relate to this criticism, i wonder if we were
late, because this is nothing new. everyone is criticizing president trump right now, and during the campaign at the end probably most journalists did, but remember on june 16, 2015, he said that mexican immigrants were criminals and drug traffickers and rapists, and that reaction was mute. >> no, that's the reason why i'm on this campaign, is because i did stories about that. the reaction from maybe the general public was a little bit more mute. from cnn perspective, we covered it quite a bit. >> i think the criticism right in the beginning as forcefully, we were giving him tons of time and i don't think we were critical enough of president trump at the beginning, especially when he was criticizing mexican immigrants. after that, when we saw that horrible video, "access hollywood," things started to change, but at the beginning i think we were not as critical as we should have been. >> you're saying criticize. and i think sitting over here, i would say report is what we've been doing. what most of the mainstream press has been doing is
reporting, not criticizing. yes, there's been a critical tone and many, many critical guests, but i think you see -- by the way, i think one of the benefits of 2016-2017 is the existence of hundreds of real news outlets with different perspectives and different ways of going about it, but i wouldn't use the word criticize the way you do. >> i think it's fair to say that all four of us, you know, draw lines at different places and have different takes. jorge's show is different from my show, katy's, brian's. we all have different views of these things. i doubt there's any uniformed way of looking at president trump. i probably draw a line at a different place that jorge does, and that's fine and i respect his right to do what he does and i assume he respects mine. my general view of president trump is that i cover him as i cover him, as i would cover any president, and when i feel that there is behavior that violates norms of decency or truths, i
will come out and say it, but i don't view everything out of that prism. >> when he says cnn is fake news, is that a character attack? what's happening in that exchange? >> first of all, i should say that of all the things president trump has said in the last year and a half, attacking cnn is very low on my list of what offended me personally. i was far more personally offended when he made fun of the disabled reporter. i was far more personally offended when he belittled the five and a half years that senator john mccain spent in a p.o.w. camp. those two instances i should say, not to mention the "access hollywood" tape and now we're in a list and i'm not going to keep going. but going after cnn doesn't offend me. it doesn't hurt me. it's part of the i want to delegitimize my critics. and, you know, by the way, at cnn we have an interesting role because we are also the network that continually gets hammered
from the left because we go out of our way to bring people who believe in president trump on to our channel. sometimes as paid commentators because i don't know if you've noticed -- >> >> wait, we've been criticized for that? >> i don't know if you notice, not a lot of republican pundits in this town actually supported president trump during the campaign, so we actually had to go out and find the lieutenant governor of south carolina and the guy who can't manage his campaign in pennsylvania, those sorts of voices. so we get it from both sides in that respect. >> do you think that having -- that paying surrogates whose job it is to deliver the talking points of the administration, do you think that putting them in a coequal position with everyone else on a panel is traditional standards of journalism? >> well, i don't think that that's -- we have. we had people, andre bower, former lieutenant governor of south carolina was on my show
last night. he's a trump supporter, but he doesn't agree with everything donald trump does. >> but there are others who do, who are on panels. >> ok. >> jeffrey lorde. >> ok. do i think he is the same as -- >> do you think paying him and others to be on these panels is what journalism at its best should be up to or should the voices of criticism not be voices which you can predict them bringing the white house line to the panel? instead bringing a point of view which is contrary to other people there. >> without getting into my specific commentator, i think that we live in a nation that has president trump as president. and one of the criticisms of the media, not without some basis, is that we live in a bubble and that we are all shocked because,
you know, was it meg greenfield who said she couldn't believe george mcgovern lost because she didn't know anybody who voted for nixon. might have been reagan, but in any case, going outside of -- you know, it would be a lot easier if jeb bush or marco rubio had won, because republican pundits in this town are more comfortable with that sort of person. i think there is -- i think it is journalistic to go out and make an effort to hear from people who support president trump, and, no, i don't see really that much of a difference when it comes to having a liberal democratic pundit who shared his or her views and maybe sometimes sounds as though he or she is reciting talking points and somebody who supports donald trump. i really, honestly don't see that much of a difference. >> the issue is not only among journalists but in academia on neutrality, should we be neutral over time with trump?
>> i don't think we should. >> let me do my homework. these are reports that i got from walter cronkite now that we're right here with him. this is what we wrote, he said, "early 1943, i reported a bombing raid over germany. in my lead i wrote that had just come back from assignment from hell. they laughed objectively. if neutrality is the test of integrity in journalism, then we failed in our duty to hold the nazis for balanced coverage." this is walter cronkite. >> he used the term fair and balanced? >> yes. [laughter] >> that was before it was -- >> that was the nazis. >> he said the nazis fair and balanced coverage. >> i wondered where that came from. >> cronkite, what are were you thinking. >> the second is really interesting. during the civil rights movement he wrote, "basic human decency
was making neutrality futile. not since world war ii had right and wrong seemed so clear cut, but no amount of a neutrality could rescue the south from itself." in other words, walter cronkite, when it comes to vietnam, when it comes to second world war, when it comes to the civil rights movement, he took a stance. he put neutrality aside, because neutrality was not an option. i know this is debatable and controversial. >> let me ask you, if i may. let me ask you -- >> some of these people have run panels. >> i'm sorry. i'm used to being in the middle here. >> i was hoping. >> so, do you think that -- i mean, do you view the position that the media should not be neutral towards president trump? every action and every policy position? i don't think you do based on your coverage. >> absolutely, but when he's
talking about -- we countered, for instance, in the last 100 days 44 times in which president trump or his administration criminalized or demonized immigrants. of course, that's an issue that we care a lot about. so yes, i think -- >> on that issue, but, for instance, you don't assume just because he takes a position on korea or nafta that he's wrong? >> absolutely not. but when it comes to racism, the way his remarks about women, about immigrants, yes, i think we have to. >> can we move -- sorry. >> but cronkite and cutting through and taking a position and not being neutral in those circumstances, i think the reason he did cut through and the reason somebody like edward r. murrow cut through and the other examples you can pull from history of journalists taking a stand and having it resinate is because the level of rhetoric from everybody wasn't up here all the time. i mean, you turn on anything and
the level of vitriol against donald trump is always up here, no matter what he says. it's very hard to cut through that to say, no, no, no, this what he's saying here actually is appalling or actually is very dangerous, or it really is important, because everything's here. we can't hear it. >> when he talks about, for instance, breaking up the 9th circuit court and people on twitter, oh, my god, he's a dictator. you do one round of google, this has been a conservative thing they've talked about for decades. and that's an important point. i'm sure everybody here agrees with, which is that we can't give our -- the people labeling us the enemy of the people, we can't give them the ammunition. we have to be reasoned, point out when things are appalling are appalling, but if everything's a crisis, nothing's a crisis. >> let me try something out that is appalling all the time about which being neutral is dangerous.
notionally, and that's the idea that facts don't matter. that you can make things up. >> you know, i have -- i was on the -- no, this was twitter. sorry, everything -- >> everything blurs together. >> everything blurs together. and i tweeted something just factual, here's what donald trump said or the sky is blue and somebody tweeted back at me, who are you to decide the facts? we decide the facts. no! you do not decide the facts. the facts are facts. nobody decides them. but it was emblematic of exactly what we were facing on the campaign trail every day. when you interviewed trump supporters, they did not care what we said. they did not care. they didn't want to hear it. they didn't care donald trump was inconsistent. they don't care if he builds the wall or not for the most part. they don't care what he does. they believe when he got into office, and they still largely believe this, that he will make the decisions that are best for the country, so facts are just
these little wisps of things in the wind that blow away. >> if that's the case, brian, why bother correcting facts? >> well, i don't think we're in a post-fact world or post-fact check world or post-truth world. i think we're only in that world of all of us in this world agree to be, everywhere else agrees to be, there are alternative realities, though. there are, to put it simply, two alternative realities and many, many alternative realities and what you're describing about, a certain kind of trump supporter who's with him no matter what, that's an emotional guttural reaction that i think we don't do a good job of always expressing on television. actually having pro trump commentators try to get at that issue by understanding the emotional reaction to any president, but right now president trump. there were similarities with some supporters of obama in 2009, with him no matter what, but right now it's about trump. i'm finding myself on television trying to find a way to convey
it's not about those -- it's not always about the very specific policy debates we're having. it's sometimes about the emotional reaction to seeing him in the oval office, wanting him to be there. i find myself thinking about that, but if there's a post truth, post fact, it's only if we all allow it to be. just because there's an alternative reality we might label the alex jones info wars bubble, because those folks live in a different place of fact. that does not mean we are post-fact as a society. >> let me also say, there's been a lot of attention on trump supporters and i think that's good, because the media does need to get outside the bubble, but they are minority of the electorate. not even just a minority of the american people or minority of the world, they are a minority of the electorate, and not all of them, you know, believe president trump no matter what he says. and the reason why facts matter is because when president trump says something about the u.s. armada being headed to the korean peninsula and turns out it's not, that becomes a major
issue in south korea during their election. because when president trump suggests that vaccines cause autism, despite the fact that the medical community, the respected medical and scientific community say that's not true, please, don't say that or else people are going to stop getting their kids immunized, that could literally have a life or death consequence. so, facts do matter. and it's ok some people don't believe them. 18% of the public think they've seen a ghost. good luck. but the idea that we are supposed to be -- to be beholden to people who don't have respect for empirical data or empirical facts is ludicrous. >> but does it strike you that there is a tacit campaign to delegitimize the enterprise of fact finding, of verification, of evidence? >> that's what fake news is all about. that's the whole thing. >> wake up in the morning, though, and say i want to make sure i delegitimize facts today?
i think they are trying to put a few points on the board, whether that's the trump administration or an opponent. i don't know if there's a concerted effort to say facts don't matter, but there are a lot of lies and misstatements and falsehoods. >> at the end when you're checking facebook or twitter or checking cnn or nbc, after a few months you know who's telling the truth and who's not telling the truth, and then we are measuring trump, now we know how to measure trump, when he lies and he's lying about not only president obama, but about 5 million immigrants voting, which is ridiculous, of course, or any other -- >> >> they voted in all the wrong states. >> exactly. >> conspiracy. >> actually, if you take away all the kids who were under 18, it would be almost half the undocumented population went to vote, which -- but it's a matter of credibility.
so, yeah, i know we're concerned about fake news. the fact is you do see some journalists, i hope, they are telling the truth. when it comes to the credibility of president trump, it is -- it is a matter of -- it is really difficult, because if he decides to get into a war with north korea, do we trust the president? let's remember with what happened when there was no weapons of mass destruction. we're forgetting that the country completely changed, even though he was not telling the truth. what happens with donald trump now he decides to bomb syria? it's very dangerous. >> it's a problem for him. in our new cnn poll, for a president -- he's already unpopular to an unprecedented degree in modern polling for a president within his first 100 days. i mean, it's staggering. and then we had a poll number, i think it was last night or the night before, the number of the percentage of americans who
think that president trump is honest and trustworthy is 37%. that's fewer than the percentage that voted for him. i mean, that is a horrible number for the president, and if i were him or on his team, i would really work on stopping with the falsehoods, stopping with the wild claims, because that can be rebuilt, that can be regained, the american people are forgiving people. that's a nice term for it. >> so, gallup poll trust in tv news. >> also very low. lower, probably. >> 21% said they think they have quite a lot or a great deal of trust in tv news. >> that high? you know, i think of the media as -- >> congress was at 9%. >> here's the thing about that, congress is at 9%, but the real -- reelection rate of congress is, like, 96%. that's the issue. >> you don't have gerrymandering. >> i think the issue is a lot of people hate the media, but they
have their channels or their stations that they watch. >> the media is a very broad brush. it could go to a whole host of things. >> everyone trusts some media, they just don't trust the same media. you mentioned hopefully everyone here trusts some journalists. you know, even the most loyal supporter of president trump who thinks cnn is a communist news network does trust fox or breitbart or info wars, so everyone trusts some media. what i saw myself wanting to do more of was what to do to reach across various aisles and figure out how to improve trust between those different bubbles and silos. >> some of is it our fault, don't you think? some of the mistrust of the media is the media's fault, i think. i think that's fair to say. >> what about it? >> there have been in the last decade alone a number of scandals where people in the media were not telling the truth. jason blair, et cetera, judith miller. i think that election coverage
in general, we all were way too reliant on polling that was faulty. there is a reason for the public to have skepticism in the media, and i think we need to -- i think, by the way, that twitter, i'm not absolving myself of this, i think twitter in some cases has been fantastic for the media and other cases it's been bad. i think there are a lot of reasons the media still has work to do. when we do reports on president trump, or any president, every word and every letter needs to be right. we need to be 100% right.
we need to make sure we give the administration ample time to respond to the story. i think it is a perilous time. we need to rise to the occasion. >> we need to also moderate ourselves, making sure we are not being alarmist about everything. it is more than rebuilding trust. it is more like trying to teach a 17-year-old to read. or four, i don't know, i have kids. >> it is close enough. >> we should be teaching journalism in school, really making an effort to teach what journalism is in history and civic classes. i am not the first one to say it. cronkite said this at the 1972 convention that people don't understand the media. they don't read enough. they can't just turn on the television.
they've got to get out and read not only the front page of the new york times, but the opinion pages as well to find out all of the viewpoint on a different subject. it should be taught to our children so they understand why it is an important of our democracy. it has to go from the bottom up. we have to be a shining example. >> there were instances in the video and in your coverage of you are 17 months when interviewing the president, and he says something which is not true. ?hat do you do >> i get him to stop and explain where he got the information, or say, that is not true. is thing about trump, he slippery. he just won't answer a question. andwill just spin and spin
go on these tangents. it is a word salad he will throw out at you. >> what do you do? >> you can spend the entire interview asking one questions over and over. >> you followed it up 23 times. the judgeiew of curiel, it was in june. it was the last time he let me interview him. >> [laughter] >> at least you made it to june. i did not get that far. he made a comment to the wall street journal the night before about how judge curiel could not be fair because he was mexican, although he is american and from indiana, of mexican heritage. i came with a sheet of questions. i knew that was the most important question. it was such an outrageous
comment. or xenats face racist, phobic technically. i just had to get through it. slippery, itall it is more like a barge, a battering ram. all politicians have ways of avoiding questions. i had to get to that question. by the way, afterwards, he was very lovely in person. >> the press conference where he told me to be quiet. a view minutes later he smiles and looks at me and says, thank you. >> [laughter] >> she is very personable one on one. >> is that theater? >> i think it is theater. he understands ratings. the washington post talked about this over the weekend, why would i get rid of sean spicer? he gets good ratings.
that is the core of donald trump . he does think it is good theater. he enjoys the sparring. she thinks it is must-see tv. that is one of the reasons why his aides had to beg him to stop this. is concernednow he over the north korean leader. >> the important thing, it is not easy to talk to trump. when we decided to talk to donald trump at the press conference, we knew he was going to interrupt us completely. we had a plan. we would be asking the questions standing up, not sitting down. with a microphone, so everybody could listen. i would ask my question until i finished.
otherwise he would say excuse me, excuse me, or interrupt me. >> you ultimately good get to ask that question. >> i was ejected from the press conference. then came his press person. she told me, do you want to go back? i said, i will go back on the condition that he allows me to ask a question. i got to talk to him for a minute. he said welcome back. i said thank you very much. >> he was personable at the end. >> knowing how dependent the news media is on selling eyeballs to advertisers, and he